Tags: politics

caonima, censorship

voices of chinese democracy

Reading chinaSMACK makes me lose faith in the Chinese Internet. Reading the China Digital Times helps me regain it.

Neither voice is truly representative of Chinese public opinion--both are run by foreigners with agendas. (Pot, kettle, black, I know.) But oh, how good it feels that someone over there is able to look through the gilded lens of China's unsustainable economic growth, and say, on their own merits, without any of the Western influence China is all too willing to blame every time it faces dissent, "This is really fucked up. Something's got to give."

Li Chengpeng, a blogger and well-known political writer, has the audacity to challenge the Chinese Communist Party as an independent candidate for congressperson of Chengdu Province. He's not going to win--it's an open secret that the elections are rigged by the CCP. He knows this. It won't stop him from running anyway:

Some claim that Chinese do not deserve a democratic election. It reminds me of the fact that I used to consider myself an elite and liked to say things like they have been kneeling down for so long that they don’t remember the benefits of standing up. I thought what I said made me look cool and profound. But now I start to realize that they kneel down because the ceiling is too low; they have no choice. On the other hand, we kneel down as well–we just do that and pretend to be high-end. The reality is that if one has never tasted an apple, how can he/she have the knowledge of how good an apple can be? Once a person experiences the good taste of an apple, he/she will look forward to the sweet taste of all apples.

[....]Some of my close friends have been skeptical of what we can achieve by participating in this election considering the current situation in China. My response to that is as least we can let many people see what a real ballot looks like for the first time. I’ve often heard people claiming they are Chinese citizens–but how can you prove it? A national identity card can only prove that the cooking knife belongs to you so it’ll be easier for the police to track you down for murder. A real estate title can only prove that you’ve rented the world’s most expensive but fragile housing. A birth certificate can only prove that you’ve been abandoned by the world’s largest human resource organization and need to pay high educational expenses, medical bills, and gas prices till the day you die. What? A death certificate? Sorry, but you can only rest (peacefully) underground for 20 years. You cannot prove you belong to this country for the 70 years you live above the ground, and you cannot even be a ghost of this country for 20 years of resting underground.

[....]An anonymous Internet user has a very good point here: If you really perceive ballots as decorations, then they will be.

A dialogue between Cao Tian, independent Guangzhou mayoral candidate, who is running under the same pretenses, and a friend who is a CCP official:

For the nation’s progress, [I] am willing to pay any price, including my life. The future of China’s reforms is uncertain and filled with challenges. If there are [figurative] land mines, then let those of us [born] after the 60s should go forward first and set an example for the post 80s and 90s [generations][...]there is one thing that I still want. It’s what the Mafei county chief said in the movie “ Let the Bullets Fly.” He said that his government was there in Echeng to ensure three things: fairness, fairness and f**king fairness....

If I die before accomplishing my objective, then I will tell my young daughter: after I am dead, burn a ballot on my grave.

From Han Han, China's most popular blogger and legendary smartass, on CCP propaganda shills:

Every government has a mechanism for propagating their perspective, [so] that is excusable. But the Fifty Cent Party is the government’s mistake, before I thought they existed to guide public opinion, but it seems I was wrong, because you wouldn’t, upon seeing a crowd of people eating shit, squeeze your way in to have a bite yourself.

Actually pretty much anything Han Han writes is golden. In a splendid interview with an unnamed Canadian news source:

Question: Do you miss Google? Why?

Answer: Actually, I don’t miss Google at all. Google is just like a young girl. One day she runs up to you and says: “I want to leave you.” I say, “Don’t be like that, sweetheart.” The most hurtful thing is, at the end she still leaves you. But I realized that, actually, when I think of her, I can still always get on her whenever I want.

The only difference is that before, when I got on her, I could get a few carrots out of her. Now when I ask, “What about the carrots?”– she will just disappear instantly.

And, on the detrimental effect of press censorship on Chinese culture, during a speech at Xiamen University:

We can’t forever keep talking about the Four Classics or Confucius’ Analects during exchanges with people from other nations. It’s like when your date asks you about your financial situation, and you say your ancestors several generations ago were really rich. Pretty useless....

Only when we fight against cultural censorship, when we liberate phrases and words from the “sensitive words database“, with the exception of inhumane words, only then will China stand a chance to become a cultural power. Even if your and my name go into that database for a while, I believe there is a ceiling to the number of words the database can contain. Every time a new one goes in, it pushes the whole thing closer to its ceiling until one day, it comes crashing down.

And let's not forget this gorgeous (anonymous) poem about the Great Divide. The events described are modern but the sentiment is timeless.
caonima, censorship

exceptionalism mad libs

Virtually every country in an emerging position of power has produced a document to this template at some point:

Dear rest of world,

It has come to our attention that you do not take us seriously enough. We are the number one supplier of [CHIEF EXPORT] and the number [NUMBER BETWEEN ONE AND TWENTY] producer of [LIST OF SECONDARY EXPORTS]. We have a GDP of [NUMBER WITH MANY TRAILING ZEROES]. International businesses the world over have headquarters in our cities, since every businessman worth his salt knows that in the current economic climate, a business simply cannot survive without our market. Foreign economists have tried to imitate our policies and our business culture, but to no success. Our economy is the envy of the world.

Collapse )

why engineers make poor autocrats

I need to prime the pump for my Georgia Tech writing sample. Let's talk Magnasanti. Behold:

I first saw this unprecedentedly huge SimCity 3000 megacity as part of the Credit Due installation at Babycastles, where it was surrounded by a fan of notes--dozens of pages of optimizing equations and geometric diagrams in efficient, impeccable handwriting. It's impossible to see this city, and the notes, and the blurb on the four years of research that led to its creation, and not feel threatened by its sinister, A Beautiful Mind-like genius. Population stable at six million (more than Hong Kong), at optimal population density! No roads! All housing and places of work within walking distance! A subway system with near-optimal transit time from any point to any other point! A library system of Alexandrian proportions! An astoundingly productive economy, a million-dollar budget surplus, extremely low crime, no derelict buildings, no traffic--and a thriving entertainment district of stadiums, casinos, and amusement parks at each corner, to boot. The city is so flawlessly designed that it has remained stable for fifty thousand in-game years--an order of magnitude longer than any real-world civilization.

On paper, this hyper-megapolis is the perfect city. It's every urban planner's wet dream. And that's precisely what makes it every citizen's worst nightmare.

Collapse )

in soviet unterzoegersdorf, game play you

Two great events at Babycastles yesterday: a screening of GET LAMP and a presentation on Soviet Unterzoegersdorf. GET LAMP is an excellent, well-researched, and surprisingly financially successful set of documentary films on the text-adventure / interactive fiction genre by filmmaker and Internet historian Jason Scott, who also did BBS: The Documentary and runs Textfiles.com. I have little more to say about it other than that it is comprehensive, cleverly shot, and true to the source material, and that I highly recommend it.

Soviet Unterzoegersdorf, on the other hand, warrants a little more exposition.

Collapse )

You can learn more about Soviet Unterzoegersdorf (and download the first two episodes of the adventure game) here. Yes, that is a ".su" (Soviet Union) top-level domain prefix.

(Crossposted to Standard Doubt, which has a more lenient commenting policy. Hello, monochrom blog readers.)
caonima, censorship

liu xiaobo wins the 2010 nobel

"For hatred is corrosive of a person’s wisdom and conscience; the mentality of enmity can poison a nation’s spirit, instigate brutal life and death struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and block a nation’s progress to freedom and democracy. I hope therefore to be able to transcend my personal vicissitudes in understanding the development of the state and changes in society, to counter the hostility of the regime with the best of intentions, and defuse hate with love."

- Liu Xiaobo

Liu Xiaobo, ladies and gents, winner of this year's Nobel. People like Liu remind me that China is not a lost cause.

The Chinese Communist Party is, of course, very upset that he won. Especially since he's currently serving 11 years in a Chinese prison for "spreading a message to subvert the country and authority." That message would be Charter 08 (for which he was one of many authors), a document that I hope will be as significant to contemporary Chinese history as the Bill of Rights was for America's. You can read the full English text of Charter 08 here.

The words of this document are familiar--they evoke America's founding documents and hundreds of political speeches--but they really help put into perspective the hyperbole of contemporary Western political discourse. Sure, the U.S. may be a cacophony of squabbling interest groups, but to a man who has spent seven years in prison solely for the crime of speaking against the mainstream, good God, wouldn't that noise sound beautiful! That multitude of opinions, no matter whether they produce the Boston Tea Party or the Republican Tea Party, is precisely what democracy is. And it's not until it goes silent does one appreciate just how much it is missed.

This man has suffered his persecution with uncanny peace, respect, and dignity. Far better than I would. Far better than the vast majority of us, I'd imagine. This is a man, unlike many of his contemporaries in the Chinese democracy movement, with the patience to wait for gradual, nonviolent reform, because he understands the great suffering and ultimate futility of Chinese revolution. This is a man who called off the sit-in he organized in Tiananmen Square in 1989 to negotiate a safe exit for thousands of students, because he felt that democracy in China needed young minds to live on and fight for it more than it needed martyrs. Truly one of the Four Junzi of Tiananmen Square.

In related news, in a display of exceptionalist hubris even the US would find hard to top, a Ministry of Culture-sponsored nonprofit immediately founded its own peace prize, and awarded it to reunificationist former Taiwanese vice president Lien Chan. Nobody cared--least of all Lien himself.
  • Current Music
    Les Miserables - Empty Tables, Empty Chairs
  • Tags

blood for oil

Today, with all the oil spilling out over the Gulf of Mexico and ruining livelihoods and killing sea life and provoking nervous ha-ha-only-serious jokes about burning hurricanes over Texas, it seems appropriate for me to talk a little bit about oil, and why it is so important.
Collapse )
  • Current Music
    The Ink Spots - I Don't Want To Set The World On Fire
  • Tags

first up against the wall: in which america lionizes a terrorist

Dear news blogosphere:

Joseph Andrew Stack III was not a madman. He was not a liberal. He was not a conservative. He was not a Marxist. He was not a teabagger. He was, if his suicide note is any indication, a sane, rational, educated human being, disillusioned with the left and the right and everyone in between, who burned down his own home after an altercation with his wife and daughter and then crashed a light aircraft into an IRS building, injuring thirteen more innocent people, with the intent to kill many more.

Collapse )
  • Current Music
    Les Miserables - Little People
  • Tags

the founder of democracy negotiates with pirates

Sometime in 2008, Cliff Harris, former Lionhead Studios programmer and current head of small-time developer Positech Games, got absolutely fed up with seeing software pirates eat up a huge chunk of his revenue. He logged on to various well-known Internet forums and flat-out asked gamers why they pirated his games. This was, needless to say, an extremely ballsy move, and one that from a typical cynical industry perspective was absolutely pointless. (It seems obvious, really. Why pay $60 for a game when you can get it for free?) But the response was overwhelming, and surprisingly insightful.

The best part of this story is that Harris actually listened. He's been offering longer demos, lower prices, more original gameplay ever since. (Just look at Gratuitous Space Battles, holy crap--and the Democracy series is to the future leaders of the world what Oregon Trail, Civilization, and SimCity were to our current ones.) And he's apparently doing quite well! The great thing is that as an independent developer, with none of the terrifying Hollywoodesque overhead hanging over him like it would at a typical triple-A studio, he can get away with taking risks like this. The downside is that since he doesn't have that overhead paying for Best Buy distribution, eyeball-incinerating graphics, Hollywoodesque interviews on the GameStop in-store channel, all that stuff that overhead is actually good for, you've never heard of him. He's got banner ads on facebook, his games occasionally get mentioned in Electronic Gaming Monthly sidebars, and Penny Arcade once dropped him a shout-out, but, well. His is the kind of name that draws puzzled looks even when dropped at those industry bar things I am apparently always going to.

And, well. It's not an isolated act of courage--the guy is very outspoken about game design and the current state of the game industry, in terms of both the casual market and triple-A titles. His comments on Farmville, support forums, and EVONY COME NOW MY LORD PLAY FREE FOREVER are spot on. This guy is so used to speaking truth to power that I imagine he's a bit of a pariah by now...

So...if his ridiculously awesome award-winning games aren't reason enough to buy from him (and they're like $15-20 each), well, now you have another reason. Unsung heroes like him make me a lot less apprehensive about trying to battering-ram my way into this industry.

I might get around to reviewing Democracy 2 here, once I get around to reviewing anything at all again. (Actually making games, and working on the website that pays my bills, is kind of eating up most of the time I'd be spending on that.)

Also, I know most of the people who read this journal aren't gamers, but...would you guys like some casual game recommendations? I play a lot of them, and you're their target audience more than I am--they're generally cheap, fun, and easy to pick up, and they don't require delving into the deep, bizarre abyss of gamer culture to enjoy them.